Thousands of young graduates, nicknamed schoolies, head to the beautiful seaside town of Victor Harbor each year to celebrate the completion of school. Known as Schoolies Week, this annual party takes place all over Australia after the end-of-year exams.
Similar to Spring Break Week in the USA, the party atmosphere of Schoolies Week sometimes encourages young people to engage in dangerous behaivor. So in 1999, a group of Christians from churches in the nearby city of Adelaide created the Schoolies Festival in order to provide schoolies with a fun and safe party.
Thirteen years later, the five-day Schoolies Festival, coordinated by Encounter Youth, has grown exponentially and is now the largest and safest event of its type in Australia. Concert stages and activity tents are set up at the beach and in the parks, and the area is cordoned off from the public so that only schoolies can attend. Alcohol and drugs are not allowed. Nightly entertainment includes concerts, a dance club tent, an alternative music tent, and a lounge room featuring movies and Karaoke, plus plenty of food and drinks.
In 2012, 10,000 schoolies converged on Victor Harbor along with more than 600 volunteers, nicknamed the Green Team due to their bright green shirts. The volunteers’ mission is to be friends for the schoolies while keeping them safe. The Green Team does anything and everything at the festival. They prepare all year round and come from all over the state, paying their own way to attend. They arrive before the festival begins to set up stages and tents; they work behind the scenes managing ticket sales and security; they take care of schoolies staying in caravans or camping; they are on every shuttle bus; they entertain the crowds waiting in line for concerts and events; they patrol the streets; they walk schoolies home or to their cars – the list goes on and on – all in an effort to keep the students safe.
As the event grows in popularity each year, the schoolies become more accepting of the Green Team. This makes it easier for the volunteers to develop relationships with the students, ultimately showing Jesus to all they meet.
Inspired by the success of the Schoolies Festival, the Green Team was invited to serve in the heart of Adelaide, entering into the Hindley Street pubs and clubs scene late Saturday nights and early Sunday mornings. Just seeing a team of people wearing the iconic Green Team shirts has helped lessen the tension, keeping some things from escalating into potentially dangerous situations. By serving students and their community, the Green Team is making a difference in the lives of many Australians while shining the light of Jesus.
-Written by Lisa H. Renninger with contributions by Grace Dickson from Edwardstown Baptist Church in Adelaide
-Photos provided by Grace Dickson
To learn more about the Green Team, visit their website: http://www.greenteam.org.au/green-team.